During an interview with Andy Cohen Live on SiriusXM, Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck said the network might pump in crowd noise and project virtual fans in empty stadiums during their broadcasts, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
“It’s pretty much a done deal," Buck said. "I think whoever is going to be at that control is going to have to be really good at their job and be realistic with how a crowd would react depending on what just happened on the field. So it’s really important.
"And then on top of that ... They’re looking at ways to put virtual fans in the stands, so when you see a wide shot it looks like the stadium is jam-packed and in fact it’ll be empty.”
On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was plausible for the NFL to play games with no fans in attendance for the 2020 season.
"I think it's feasible that negative testing players could play to an empty stadium," Fauci said. "Is it guaranteed? No way ... There will be virus out there and you will know your players are negative at the time they step onto the field.
"If the virus is so low that even in the general community the risk is low, then I could see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium so people could be six feet apart. I mean, that's something that is again feasible depending on the level of infection. I keep getting back to that: It's going to depend. Like, right now, if you fast forward, and it is now September. The season starts. I say you can't have a season—it's impossible. There's too much infection out there. It doesn't matter what you do. But I would hope that by the time you get to September it's not gonna be the way it is right now."
The NFL released its 2020 schedule on May 7. The season is slated to start on Thursday, Sept. 10, with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.
Correction: This story originally indicated that Buck said Fox was definitely planning to pump in crowd noise during games without fans. It has been updated to reflect that Buck did not definitively commit to Fox using artificial crowd noise. SI regrets the error.